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Pelochelys cantorii, 011

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Pelochelys cantorii Gray 1864 –
Asian Giant Softshell Turtle

Indraneil Das1

1Institute of Biodiversity and Environmental Conservation,
Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, 94300 Kota Samarahan, Sarawak, Malaysia
[[email protected]]


Summary. — The Asian giant softshell turtle, Pelochelys cantorii (Family Trionychidae), is a large freshwater species which can reach 60–100 cm in total carapace length. It occurs in a variety of habitats, including lakes, rivers, estuaries, seacoasts, and occasionally in coastal marine waters. The species is widespread, occurring from peninsular India to China and Southeast Asia. The taxonomy of the genus Pelochelys has recently been revised, and P. bibroni is now considered to be restricted to southern New Guinea, P. signifera in northern New Guinea, and P. cantorii is now the valid name for the species known from the rest of the range of the genus. However, further study may identify other species within this enormous territory, especially from the Philippines. Aquatic organisms are consumed, including fish, crustaceans and molluscs, in addition to plant matter. Clutch size is 24 to 70 eggs. Nesting sites include riverbanks as well as seacoasts. Exploitation of its flesh for food, suspected killing by anglers and fishermen after getting entangled in fishing gear, and destruction of riverine and coastal habitats are factors in its depletion.

Distribution. – Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam. Distributed along the coasts of southern and eastern Asia from southwestern India to southeastern China, and including the Philippines and Indonesia to Sumatra and Borneo.

Synonymy. – Pelochelys cantorii Gray 1864, Pelochelys cantoris, Pelochelys cumingii Gray 1864, Pelochelys poljakowii Strauch 1890.

Subspecies. – None recognized. Animals from the Philippines may be distinct.

Status. –  IUCN 2007 Red List: Endangered (EN Alcd+2cd) (assessed 2000) ; CITES: Appendix II.



Das, I. 2008. Pelochelys cantorii Gray 1864 – Asian giant softshell turtle. In: Rhodin, A.G.J., Pritchard, P.C.H., van Dijk, P.P., Saumure, R.A., Buhlmann, K.A., and Iverson, J.B. (Eds.). Conservation Biology of Freshwater Turtles and Tortoises: A Compilation Project of the IUCN/SSC Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group. Chelonian Research Monographs No. 5, pp. 011.1-011.6, doi:10.3854/crm.5.011.cantorii.v1.2008, //iucn-tftsg.org/cbftt/.

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Adult Pelochelys cantorii on a sandbar on the Mekong River near Kratie, Cambodia.
Photo by Annette Olsson.



Distribution of Pelochelys cantorii in southeastern Asia. Red points = museum and literature occurrence records based on published records plus more recent and author’s data; green shading =  projected distribution based on GIS-defined hydrologic unit compartments (HUCs) constructed around verified localities and then adding HUCs that connect known point localities in the same watershed or physiographic region, and similar habitats and elevations as verified HUCs (Buhlmann et al., unpubl. data), and adjusted based on author’s data.